We’re currently looking at how many empty properties there are across Wales.
The students and staff are in the process of using the Freedom of Information act to get data sets as part of our sessions around data journalism and visualising data.
(Martin recently did a post looking at different technologies for wrangling the data from the first request).
We’ve applied to all 22 of the Welsh councils for the same information and are starting to get responses before the 20 day statutory limit.
And it is really interesting to see how that request is being interpreted by different councils.
So, to explain that we’ll go back to our first application – Cardiff
What do they know?
To keep the application and responses in public, our preferred way of working is to make the application on What Do They Know.
This is a great resource for anyone intersted in public data, and has an advanced search facility that really helps you find what you are looking for as it uses a syntax familiar to anyone who has used the advanced Google Search techniques.
We asked for:
1 The number of
2 address (including street number and postcode) of homes that:
a) have been empty for over 6 months
b) have been empty for under 6 months
c) your empty homes strategy including what empty homes (if any)
And we got it, the only issue was we got PDF but asked for Excel. Tabula is a great tool for dealing with information locked in PDF format but we just asked for the new filetype and got them.
The rest of Wales
We then applied to the other 21 authorities in Wales, and have had widely varying results.
We’d already picked up that there might be some issues, given the phrasing coming back from Cardiff, so we made sure that later applications acknowledged (and hopefully dealt with) the anticipated exceptions.
And we hit one in particular so far. Section 31(a) – crime.
Section 31(1)(a) the prevention or detection of crime
- Section 31(1)(a) will cover all aspects of the prevention and detection of crime. It could apply to information on general policies and methods adopted by law enforcement agencies. For example, the police’s procedures for collecting forensic evidence, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs procedures for investigating tax evasion.
- The exemption also covers information held by public authorities without any specific law enforcement responsibilities. It could be used by a public authority to withhold copies of information it had provided to a law enforcement agency as part of an investigation. It could also be used to withhold information that would make anyone, including the public authority itself, more vulnerable to crime for example, by disclosing its own security procedures, such as alarm codes.
- Whilst in some instances information held for the purposes of preventing or detecting crime will be exempt, it does not have to be held for such purposes for its disclosure to be prejudicial.
There is a public interest test to this exemption, so we’re off to read up on the Information Commissioner’s rulings on this as we’ve already had a few knock backs.
I will come back to the post, and the applications, when we’ve got all the responses we asked for.